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Houston Zoo Great Horned Owl Receives Extraordinary Care

Training and Surgery Together Save Sight

Roxie the great horned owl being examinedNine-year-old great horned owl, Roxie, has recovered from cataract surgery performed recently to save her sight. The retired ambassador animal was observed squinting her right eye and under closer examination, her care team noticed she was doing it more frequently. Over the course of two years, Roxie underwent numerous eye exams and procedures, including the eventual removal of her right eye, and discovery of cataract in her left eye. In order to better treat her eye issues, she needed multiple eye drops daily for which her trainers worked diligently to train her to voluntarily accept the drops. Within 10 days, Roxie’s trainers were able to successfully start administering voluntary medicated eye drops which continued through her July 2021 right eye removal and left eye cataract surgery and recovery in November.

Cataracts develop in animals for the same reasons as humans—prolonged exposure to sunlight, genetics—and being able to see her trainers and fly are important to Roxie’s welfare.

To remove the cataract, the Zoo partnered with veterinary animal ophthalmologists Dr. Nicholas Millichamp at Eye Care of Animals and Dr. Lynsey Wagner at Gulf Coast Animal Eye Clinic who performed the surgery on Monday, Nov. 8. The new lens was specially created by scientists in Germany at an-vision Inc.

“Since her procedure, Roxie has made a great recovery,” said Michelle Castle, interim curator of Children’s Zoo and Roxie’s primary trainer. “She’s been much better overall, and we’ve seen improvement in her vision.”